The PDs have long fostered the illusion that they were a distinct party. In reality they were a loose coalition of carpetbaggers, independents,anti Haughey FFers and some discontented FGaelers. They adopted the mantle of tax cutters.
Their main strongholds were Galway, Cork City , Waterford City, Limerick and parts of Dublin south of the Liffey. Throughout most of the country PDs were as scarce as icebergs in the Sahara.Gradually PD support melted away in Waterford Cork and even Limerick-home of PD founder Desmond O'Malley. The PDs resorted to drafting in high profile personlities to stand for the party. This damaged the slight prospects the party had of organic growth in some constituencies. The departure of Charlie Haughey removed another obstacle to future reunification with FF.
It is glaringly obvious that the PD party has been in terminal decline since the 2002 General Election. It got a temporary reprieve in 2002 when FG fought a very uncoordinated campaign. In desperation some FG voters drifted to the PDs to stymie FF efforts to secure an overall majority. After the election much nonsense was spouted by some journalists about a reverse take over of FG by the PDs.
To all intents and purposes Ireland was ruled by an FF government from 2002 to 2007. Both Harney and McDowell brought the party closer to FF. Prior to the 2002 General Election the PDs were part of a government, which cynically ratcheted up expenditure to unsustainable levels. This was the party, which supposedly favoured curbs on public expenditure and low taxation. After the 2002 General Election the FF/PD government introduced Stealth Taxes and failed to index tax bands and allowances. They supported the huge rises in public expenditure again in 2006 and 2007.-prior to the 2007 General Election. The FF/PD Government (2002- 2007) presided over huge waste in public expenditure. PPARs and the electronic voting fiasco are monuments to waste. The PD input was nil. FF had killed the PDs with kindness.
In the 2007 General Election the PDs dropped from 8 seats to 2. Party leader Michael McDowell- having replaced Harney as leader- lost his seat. Once more Mary Harney assumed the leadership in a temporary capacity. The party has been unable to find a credible leader. Ex TDs Liz O’Donnell and Tom Parlon saw the writing on the wall and departed.
Mary Harney will not stand in the next General Election and Noel Grealish has already had contact with FF. The PDs are now rudderless. Thoughtful PD councillors will move swiftly to join FF or FG . This would ensure that many of them would hold their seats in the Local Elections of 2009. The decision of Cllr Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Dun Laoghaire) to join FG was inevitable.